Rumble Cube

Rumble Volume 1: What Color of Darkness. John Arcudi, James Harren, Dave Stewart. Image, 2015.  9781632153838. Collects Rumble #1 – #5.  144pp.
Rumble Volume 2: A Woe That Is Madness. John Arcudi, James Harren, Dave Stewart. Image, 2016.  9781632156044. Collects Rumble #6 – #10.  160pp.
Rumble Volume 3: Immortal Coil. John Arcudi, James Harren, Dave Stewart.  Image, 2017.  9781632159281. Collects Rumble #11 – #15. 160pp. 
The BPRD books John Arcudi co-wrote with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola are some of my favorite rereads. This graphic novel series that he co-created with James Harren also has amazing monsters, supernatural heroes, a sense of humor, and a lot of heart.
In an unnamed (I think) American city near both a swamp and a failed Paul Bunyan theme park, an old man leaves his favorite bar after a night of drinking. He’s attacked by a sword-wielding scarecrow that cuts his arm off. The scarecrow is inhabited by the spirit of “some kind of monster-killing god” from thousands of years ago (Rathraq) and recently set free. He wants vengeance because the old guy is the wizard who separated his spirit from his immortal body. He also wants that body back (it’s just risen from the swamp and looks like some kind of bog mummy) along with his heart, which powers it. But of course the monsters that he once protected mankind from, the Esu, the ones he used to cut up with his mighty sword, are still hanging about and they don’t want that. Their queen hides his heart and threatens to destroy his immortal body. Battles ensue. 
On Rathraq’s side: Bobby the bartender, tough in a pinch but reluctant to kill; his friend Del, a potty mouth who wants to fight alongside Rathraq; and Apache, a dog Rathraq likes to talk to about his dead war hound, Slanjau.  Against them: a “man” with a pet hydra that he loves, a fire demon, and a hoard of creatures. And somewhere in between: half human / half Esu hybrids that need a little love and a lot of pizza. (They look like octopi made out of melting scoops of creamsicle ice cream.)

Sometimes A Fantasy Is All You Need

Fantasy Sports No. 1 by Sam Bosma. Nobrow, 2015. 9781907704802. 56pp.

Fantasy Sports No. 2: The Bandit of Barbel Bay by Sam Bosma. Nobrow, 2016. 9781910620106. 56pp.

In short: large format, sports-themed, supernatural, all-ages graphic novels that show a heavy manga influence, and which belong in middle schools, some high schools, and all public libraries.

In No. 1, Wiz, an intern with The United and Ancient Order of Mages who wants a reassignment, as does her partner, the gigantic and muscular Mug. Mug says she’s not built for treasure hunting and complains that Mug knows nothing about magic and just breaks things. The archmage sends them out to work together again and to prove themselves by acquiring magical artifacts. First up, after solving a temple’s puzzle, they face the mummy of He of the Giant Steps in his tomb.The contest he chooses: basketball.

In No 2, after a baseball flashback showing how powerful Wiz is, her spell lands her and Mug on an island ruined by the Order of Mages (they rained down fire and took the treasure). The pair are robbed, but have a chance to reclaim their treasure (and more!) by winning Yahm’s Tournament, where they must ultimately face the town’s supernatural, completely synchronized champions at two on two beach volleyball.

These books are great. They’re oversized hardcovers that are great to hold. Bosma’s art reminds me of Osamu Tezuka’s best. And the violence is both cartoony and slightly over-the-top — in the first volume Mug rips an adversary in half, but in a way that’s kid friendly. (Now that I’ve said that will you ever trust me again?) In the second there’s a more cartoonily explosive over-the-net block that levels the beach.

Late note: I just read an advanced copy of Fantasy Sports No. 3: The Green King, which comes out in July 2017. Wiz must win a crazy round of putt putt golf to save Mug and avoid getting eaten, plus there’s a great flashback to a pro wrestling match Mug saw as a kid and even more evidence that The United and Ancient Order of Mages is up to no good. Best volume yet, but read the other two first.

Mythology and Wieners

Pantheon: The True Story of the Egyptian Deities by Hamish Steele. Nobrow, 2017. 9781910620205. 216pp.

pantheonGene: Pantheon! This sex-filled book you made me read. It’s all about the Egyptian gods, everything you wanted to know about them but were afraid to ask. It opens with the sun, Atum, in eternal darkess. Then he has a wank.
Sarah: The character drawings are the best in this book. I love them so much.
Gene: They’re all shown from the side, like they would appear on the walls of an Egyptian tomb. Crocodile people, bird-headed people. As with all nonfiction, I absorbed almost nothing, none of the names. I know Ra is in there, and Bast.
Sarah: Set is so great. His weird dog face is so expressive.
Gene: He looks weird to me because he has “rabbit” ears. This whole book is a little bit like watching an episode of Stargate. It’s cartoony. Kawaii Stargate, maybe?
Sarah: I took a class in Greek and Roman mythology in college. About half of these stories are about sex in some way, just like those. I was like Oh, yeah, they’re all about dicks.
Continue reading “Mythology and Wieners”

Worn Skulls

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley.  Tor, 2017.  9780765389879.
skullswornFirst, if you’re a fan of Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades and its sequels, stop reading now. Yes, this book is about the backstory of the most compelling character from those books, Pyrre Lakatur, priestess of Ananshael, the God of Death. Yes, it’s as good as you’re hoping. Skip the minor spoilers ahead, ignore the dust jacket copy, and read it NOW. If you’re anything like me you won’t be able to put it down. 
If you’re a fantasy reader who hasn’t given Staveley a chance yet, stop waiting. His world is filled with gods new and old who occasionally walk among men, as well as other creatures and warriors that are equally as deadly. His books are right up at the top of my list with the best by Brandon Sanderson, Richard K. Morgan, Anthony Ryan, and Joe Abercrombie (which they compete with in terms of the amount and beauty of violence they contain) 
Pyrre Lakatur is facing her final trial. If she passes, she will become a priestess of the God of Death. If she fails she will be killed by her Witnesses. She must kill seven people in fourteen days who fit the criteria detailed in a song. For a devotee of Ananshael as skilled with knives as she is, this would present little trouble — she has no fear of death, and no hesitation sending people to meet her god. Except for the last person on the list: she’s supposed to give her god one who made her mind and body sing with love. And Pyrre has never been in love. 
To find the man she’s felt the most for, she returns to Dombâng, a sweltering town on a river delta full of deadly creatures, where he is in charge of the constables. To draw him to her she sets the city on edge, reminding its citizens of their ancient gods and fanning the flames of their resentment at the Empire that now rules them. To experience love, she may have to reveal who she truly is, and why she has come home. 

Turn On Your Witchlight

Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky. Czap, 2016.

witchlightContains material originally published in Witchlight #1 – #4 plus new material.

Sanja is visiting the market with her father and brothers when she accidentally confronts a witch, Lelek, who is dealing with an unhappy customer. Sanja awakens to find herself tied up in Lelek’s camp, though she doesn’t seem too concerned. Lelek wants Sanja to teach her to fight with a sword. Sanja agrees provided Lelek stops cheating people in different towns. They’re soon on the road together with Lelek challenging other witches to fights wherever they go for a share of the spectator’s fees.

The beginning of the story (the kidnapping) is a bit odd and abrupt, but the budding friendship (and perhaps more) between the two young women makes it very enjoyable, as does Zabarsky’s cheerful black and white (and somewhere in between) art.

I’ve picked up a few Czap books at small comics shows over the last few years (Seattle’s Short Run, and maybe SPX), and I was happy to be able to pledge to their Kickstarter.

What do you think about the birds in the sky?

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. TOR Books, 2016. 9780765379948.

allthebirdsGene: I think my pitch for this book to you was, “This book is breaking my heart.” I couldn’t read very much of it at a time. I think I started it in July or August, but I didn’t finish it until December after we decided to do it as a book club. I think I was just so upset by the early chapters… but they were also so beautiful, so beautifully done.
Sarah: I remember you telling me that it was great and that it kept changing genres, it kept breaking your expectations. And I thought, “I would read it for that.”
G: Breaking expectations and also my heart. In a way that kind of put it in that Neil Gaiman area.
Continue reading “What do you think about the birds in the sky?”

Not Far from My Favorite Book

The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin. Saga Press, 2001. 9780689845345.

the-farthest-shoreI’m doing something I hardly ever do — I’m writing this review without notes. I just had a conversation with my friend Adam, and at the heart of it was the idea of being present. When I feel overwhelmed I realize I return to books that I love, and this is one of them. When I picked it up last week, in the middle of working my way through five or six other books that I’m enjoying, it was because as I worked my way though this familiar and beautifully told story I was able to take time to reflect and think and to even watch myself reading it, if that makes any sense.

It’s a concise and poetic fantasy novel of the type that are rarely written, the third in the Earthsea series. Magic is disappearing from the world, and the Archmage Sparrowhawk and a young prince set out to investigate. Their journey takes them across the islands of Earthsea. They find people who can’t remember who they are, who seem to have given up their selves for the lie of living forever. The world is out of balance. A man, misusing his gifts and his power, is at the heart of it all and has to be stopped.

This reading it all seemed to be about the price of greed and being motivated by fear, but maybe that’s the election talking. That true immortality, or at least as much of it as we can have, can only be found in songs. That there’s value in wandering over hills and seas and even in stillness. That to become who you are you have to risk death. (And that if you want young people to become who they are, you have to let them take this risk, you can’t take it for them or protect them from it.)

What do you reread?